With 13 days left before the election, the Trump family is all hands on deck: Ivanka is learning guitar, Tiffany is reminding us she has gay friends, Eric accidentally and inaccurately "came out" on national television, and Don, Jr. is continuing to engage in his favorite pastime: “owning the libs.”
Unlike the 2016 campaign, Don, Jr. — the eldest and perhaps most volatile Trump child — has been at the forefront of the Trump 2020 campaign. But his contributions seem to begin and end with his role as his father’s angry mouthpiece, doubling down on conspiracies, racist tweets, and attacking social media censorship at random.
Over the course of the Trump presidency, Don Jr. went from being his father's veritable second favorite adult child (first prize went to Ivanka), to taking on the role of Trump's keeper — rushing to his defense at a moment's notice. For instance, in 2017 he live-tweeted James Comey’s hearing, adding his own commentary and explanations while effectively drowning out and overriding the Republican National Committee’s carefully crafted messaging.
"Knowing my father for 39 years when he 'orders or tells' you to do something there is no ambiguity, you will know exactly what he means," Trump Jr. tweeted, implying Comey had added or assumed meaning to his father’s words. Then, in 2018, there was his insistence that his father was not racist because he is friends with “rappers,” and in 2019, he went on The View to acknowledge that his father was “controversial,” but insisted he “has been working tirelessly to bring back the American dream [for those] who’ve watched politicians with no business experience send that American dream abroad to countries that hate our guts.”
But as the election has crept closer, Don, Jr. has upped his game. On September 9, he went to a Trump rally in Duluth, Minnesota where he disputed the allegations that his father had called fallen soldiers “losers” (despite there being multiple witnesses attesting to Trump actually saying this). “Everyone in the room is on the record as saying it didn’t happen,” Trump Jr. told the crowd. One attendee told the Duluth News Tribune that Don, Jr. “sure is on fire for his father.” Later that month, when the New York Times dropped the bombshell story about Trump’s taxes, Don, Jr. dismissed the criticism by saying, “people don’t understand what goes into a business.”
Even more recently, on October 5, he issued a defense of his dad’s seemingly indefensible decision to potentially expose Secret Service members to COVID-19 during his drive around the Walter Reed hospital so he could wave to his crowd of supporters. "I had heard from someone that some of the agents that were around him were actually people who had already tested positive in the past, therefore had antibodies. I've been told that,” he told FOX6, which was not able to confirm those claims. Later that month, even Fox News cut him off when he wouldn’t stop ranting about the media’s coverage of Trump’s connections to Jeffrey Epstein while pushing QAnon theories. He has now gone so far as to promote videos using deceptive editing tactics to push a false narrative about his father’s political opponents, and then battle with Twitter and Facebook for removing any falsified content he posts.
Don. Jr.’s commitment to defending his father is no accident, though — he has been clear that loyalty is a Trump family value. “We got into this thing standing shoulder to shoulder in an elevator, and that's how it will always be… This fight, defending our father, and delivering on the promises has brought our family closer together than ever before,” he told Fox News earlier this year. He also admitted that when it comes to defending his father against what he sees as biased attacks from news media doing fact-based reporting, he “kind of enjoy[s] the fight.”
In lieu of developing a political identity — or any identity of his own, really— Trump’s eldest son has chosen instead to be his father’s surrogate. Whether he’s doing it because he believes hitching his wagon to his father’s career will benefit his own, or he’s doing it because he believes it’s the only way he can earn his father’s love and respect, the only thing Don, Jr. has to show for himself is his continued defense of an indefensible man. Or, maybe he really is the real-life Kendall Roy.